Wednesday, 1 June 2016

What I Don't Miss About the 50s 3


"We'll never be able to put England back the way it was", wailed an elderly Brexiteer recently. I sincerely hope not. Do you really want to go back to this? Don't you remember:

THE COLD

We were told that a windbreak is more effective if erected down wind, thin clothes and blankets keep you warmer than thick ones and string vests keep you warmer than wool ones because they trap warm air in the holes. (A story put about after WWII when the government had a lot of surplus string to use up.) Loose light layers keep you warmer than one thick, tight layer. You shouldn’t use a blanket with a duvet. Don’t go out warm. Don’t wear your coat indoors or when you go out you won’t feel the benefit. If you are cold, don’t sit right over a fire – it will make you colder. Don't warm your feet at a heat souce. Hot baths are bad for you. Sleep with a window open. When did we stop peddling this nonsense?

We wore Wellington boots in the snow, with ordinary socks, and got chilblains.


THE FOOD
I dimly remember having to eat a piece of bread and butter before being allowed cake and biscuits, but that was surely on the Yorkshire pudding principle - eat something dull, and you won't be so hungry for the interesting (expensive) stuff. Also, you were supposed to leave the bit you liked best to last, when you weren't hungry any more. Biscuits and cakes, and toast and marmalade were the only pleasant food you ever got (whatever happened to plain boiled potatoes?). Meanwhile in other houses people were eating ridiculous things like perdrix au choux and soufflé surprise.


THE SEX
"Society then was so oppressive and so false, particularly sexually. Neighbours had this prurience and primness and this awful kind of policing of each other's lives. Nobody these days could imagine how dull things were and how respectful people were and how dead they were from the neck up." Playwright David Hare

It was assumed that disabled people, like many others, would not have a sex life. They were supposed to “sublimate” their sexuality and go in for good works. And if anyone suggested good works you knew you’d been written off. It was assumed that sexuality was something you could turn on and off at will. Young people were not supposed to have a sex life until they left boarding school at 18. See Pears Cyclopedia on the female orgasm (if you don’t have them, just stop worrying about it, it’s not important).

This went on until the 70s: if you were a shy, plain reject, it was assumed that you would be good at looking after others in the same boat. In fact, you should all get together and befriend each other and remove yourselves from the company of the successful, attractive, fun, glamorous and partnered. People with quite severe problems were shoved together. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t help them.

We were told: don’t pick a baby up when it cries, put it in a pram in the garden for hours, send it to boarding school at 7, don’t hug your children. If on a kibbutz, see your children for two hours a day. Don’t visit your child in hospital, it will become “unsettled”. Why? Didn’t they want people to love each other? Could you only be affectionate with your husband/wife/girlfriend/ boyfriend – but never in public? What was the point of it all?


THE MUSIC
Little Red Bull
Little Drummer Boy
That’s My Weakness Now
I Am a Mole and I Live in a Hole
Herb Alpert’s Spanish Flea
Mexican Hat Dance
A Walk in the Black Forest
Suku Suku the beat is crazy

More here, and links to the rest.

2 comments:

  1. I was smiling my way through this, and then was suddenly pitched back to being put in an isolation hospital at the age of 5 for yellow jaundice for nearly 7 weeks. My parents could visit 3x a week for 30 mins, dressed in gowns and masks. Un-effing-believable. Within a couple of years, the treatment would have been 'stay off school for a week or 2 until you feel better, and be a bit careful about germs.'

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